Singapore under ‘siege’

Maxwell Coopers
Free Malaysia Today

First there was a very violent gang inspired attack that left one person dead on Halloween’s Day on Oct 30.

No sooner than that, there was yet another attack that left an Indian man badly injured.

Just when the proverbial dust was settling another gang-led attack, this time on a woman by yet other women leaving the victim badly bruised.

All the violence occurring as they did, were not spontaneous one-off acts.

Studies are yet to ascertain if the acts of violence which have horrified local Singapore public were the result of lax policing or lenient treatment in the nation’s prison service.

Nor have concrete explanations been given to why there was a sudden upsurge in gang activity after years of tough policing, profiling and relentless crackdowns on gangs and gangsters and the use of extra-judicial powers such as the Section 5(55A) provision under the country’s Criminal Provision Act which grants for the arrest and detention of criminals without trial.

Even so, none of the senseless violence should actually be happening particularly after the public expressed ‘uncontrolled’ outrage at the indiscriminate slaying of an Indian foreign worker and the slashing of his compatriots when a gang of parang (machete) wielding Sarawakians went on a rampage in June.

That such violence should be happening at all, is tuning out to be an oxymoron of sorts.

And that’s only because most government literature have constantly touted Singapore, as to be a safe and somewhat crime-free society.

That has not been the case so far, to say the least.

Tough policing

To make the irony even sharper, the city-state has constantly argued that the retention of death penalty is perhaps the best deterrent against crime, especially against hard core drug dealers.

And that is even borne out by the fact that an overwhelming majority support the death penalty as how the findings of a survey some two years showed.

Yet what has happened since the murder of Republic Polytechnic student Darren Ng on Oct 30, points to the same fissiparous state of affairs calling for a return of tough policing; the clear lack of which has clearly given way to many taking ‘liberties’.

There is, to underscore the plain obvious, no lack of enforcement in the republic.

“Fortress Singapore’ maintains a very vice-like clamp on its people and its national service conscripts includes not just troops in its regular army but also men and resources for the police force.

And just every precinct, suburb and constituency has men pounding its beat.

So just what did really happen?

In an era of unprecedented prosperity when people should generally be contented with what they have, the outbreak of senseless violence and killings by no means, harkens to the very times when secret society and triad gangsters ruled Singapore’s streets.

But what makes for soothing comfort, is that unlike the terror of the 1950s and 1960s when gangs and gangsters proliferated abetted by what was grinding poverty, the terror of today, according to all news reports is very much localised and isolated.

According to the country’s Law Minister and Second Minister for Home Affairs, K Shanmugam the very ‘loose structure’ as evidence that gangs today are not as menacing as they were in the days gone by.

Mobsters’ rule

Yet there is no musing that whatever that needs to be done to keep the country the safe is going to be done; for what is at stake is the very credibility of a nation touted across the word as one of its safest.

Though it is too early to say advocates and concerned citizens are calling for a return to the tough policing actions of yesteryears through preventive detention and detentions without trial – the very kind of enforcement serving the bane of human rights activists.

Another is for the reinstatement of the discarded practice of getting offenders to register at police stations weekly.

The continued harping of the report detailing the death of Polytechnic student Darren Ng, highlight perhaps what is grievously wrong: that the minute the nation lets it guard down mobsters take over, in a manner of speech.

“Under the current Criminal Procedure Code, there is provision for supervision to be imposed on second offenders after they are released from prison.

“However, that section is seldom invoked. So I feel that for youthful offenders or gangsters, after they have served the jail term, they can be placed on police supervision for at least three years with time restrictions.”, lamented lawyer James Lee, to the country’s Channel News Asia.

From all outward appearances, it almost looks like a certainty that just maybe what is in line for imposition: the invoking of sections to sectionalize parts of its populations!

How sorry has such a state of the nation has turned out to be.

Maxwell Coopers is a Singapore-based freelance writer.